Music at Simon Fraser University

Simon Fraser University. Non-denominational university founded in Burnaby, BC, in 1963, with undergraduate and graduate programs operating on a year-round tri-semester schedule. It was named after Simon Fraser (explorer, fur trader, 1776-1862), who gave his name to the Fraser River.

Music at Simon Fraser University

Simon Fraser University. Non-denominational university founded in Burnaby, BC, in 1963, with undergraduate and graduate programs operating on a year-round tri-semester schedule. It was named after Simon Fraser (explorer, fur trader, 1776-1862), who gave his name to the Fraser River.

Music Administration and Faculty

At its inception in 1965, the Centre for Communications and the Arts (within the Faculty of Education) offered non-credit workshops in dance, film, music, theatre, and visual arts, conducted by resident and visiting artists. The aim was to awaken a sensitivity to the arts rather than to turn out professional artists.

The heads of the Centre for Communications and the Arts were Bruce Attridge 1965-6, Tom Mallinson 1966-8, Patrick Lyndon 1968-70, and Nini Baird 1970-2. In 1972 the centre was divided into the Department of Communication Studies (renamed the Department of Communication in 1977 and the School of Communication in 1994) and the Centre for Communications and the Arts, the latter directed by Nini Baird until 1976. Another reorganization in that year transformed the Centre for Communications and the Arts into the Centre for the Arts within the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies. Evan W. Alderson was appointed the centre's head. Grant Strate was appointed director in 1980, succeeded by Rudolf Komorous in 1989.

In 1990 the centre's name was changed to School for the Contemporary Arts to reflect the increased emphasis on interdisciplinary programs and the shared philosophical focus of all areas on the theory and practice of contemporary art. Directors have included Rudolf Komorous (1990-4), Owen Underhill (1994-7, 1998-2001, 2005-06), Patricia Gruben (1997-8), and Martin Gotfrit (beginning in 2001).

Teachers have included Ingrid Buch and the composer David MacIntyre. The composition faculty was strengthened with the addition of composer and conductor Owen Underhill in 1981, Martin Bartlett (b Croydon, Eng, 1939, d Half Moon Bay, BC, 22 Aug 1993, a specialist in live electroacoustic music) in 1982, Komorous in 1989, and Arne Eigenfeldt in 1994. Barry Truax was appointed jointly by the centre and the Department of Communication in 1975.

Music Degrees and Courses

The Centre for the Arts developed credit courses in dance, film, music, theatre, and the visual arts. Courses were offered in music history and the basics of music. In 1981 a minor credit in contemporary music was instituted. From 1981 the centre began to focus on composition, electroacoustic and electronic music, world music, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Degree programs offered through the School for the Contemporary Arts have included a BFA (film, dance, music, theatre, and visual art), and a BA (art and culture studies). An MFA (Interdisciplinary Studies) was established in 1990. Music courses have been offered in composition and theory, contemporary music performance, electroacoustic performance, world music, conducting and film music. In 1990 there were 7 full-time faculty and 80 students. By 2009 the school supported 28 full-time faculty and 370 students.

Music Performance

Notable resident musicians have included the composers Jack Behrens, Bruce Davis, Peter Huse, R. Murray Schafer, and Phillip Werren and the mezzo-soprano Phyllis Mailing. Short-term residents included Cornelius Cardew, Udo Kasemets, Olivier Messiaen, and Christian Wolff. In the early 1970s the emphasis shifted from single musicians to in-residence ensembles and from composers to performers. These included Mailing 1965-7 and 1970-5, the Lyric Arts Trio 1971-2, the Purcell String Quartet 1972-82, the early music specialist David Skulski 1973-6, and the conductor Jon Washburn in 1974.

Mailing served 1966-8 as conductor of the 32-voice Simon Fraser University Choir and its subsection, the Simon Fraser University Chamber Singers. David Keane took over 1968-70. Mailing returned as director from 1970-4 and reorganized the choirs as the Madrigal Singers (Burnaby, BC). Subsequent directors included Jon Washburn (1974), Leonard Lythgoe (1974-5), and Scott Andrews (1975). Doreen Oke directed from 1980-3 (outside of the university), after which the group ceased to exist.

Other ensembles have included HouseBand, which performs student compositions, and The Professional Ensemble. The latter is composed of musicians from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Opera Orchestra, Vancouver Opera Chorus, and the vocal ensemble musica intima. Besides attracting outstanding practising musicians to its ranks, the university has been visited by several hundred ensembles and soloists whose programs have given much emphasis to contemporary Canadian music.

Music Facilities, Research, and Resources

The School of Communication houses the Sonic Research Studio, originally developed by Schafer after 1965, and the World Soundscape Project, initiated by Schafer in 1971 and carried on by Barry Truax and Hildegard Westerkamp. In 1990 the combined Computing Engineering, Communication, and Centre for the Arts departments opened the Centre for Image/Sound Research (CISR). CISR projects included Compose, a computer-based choreography system developed by the university's Computing Engineering faculty, and the development of an advanced computer music circuit board by Truax. The Centre for Image/Sound Research closed in 1995.

In 2010 the School for the Contemporary Arts relocated to the state-of- the-art Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on the University's Vancouver campus. Facilities include the Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, the World Art Performance Studio, a 350-seat film and lecture hall, and two 125-seat dance and theatre performance studios.

Beginning in 1986, there have been regular summer offerings in the areas of gamelan performance and interactive electronics. Following Expo 86 the Indonesian government donated a complete Javanese gamelan to the university. Gamelan expert K.R.T.Wasitodipuro (also known as Pak Cokro) was a frequent instructor at the summer program. A field school in Ghana was established in 2002 with Albert St. Albert Smith as its director. A field school in India, directed by Patricia Gruben, began in 2009.

See also Simon Fraser University in The Canadian Encyclopedia.


Further Reading

  • Baird, Nini. "Centre for Communications and the Arts," Communications 70, Apr 1970

    "Music an unstructured experience at Simon Fraser," The Music Scene, no. 267, Sep-Oct 1972

    "Komorous appointed director of Simon Fraser University's Centre for the Arts," Canadian Composer, no. 243, Sep 1989

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